Monday, 30 January 2012

Time to Stitch

Hello everyone! Yesterday I finished off my big written drama assessment for this semester, and boy, am I pleased that's over with! The work itself wasn't too hard and I enjoyed the plays we were studying, it's just finding constant motivation is hard work. But now it's done and dusted and I can resume my normal stitching schedule. Yay!
About a week ago now, I posted off my first Birthday Stitch Surprise parcel for Mouse. I can happily report that the package arrived safely and was liked by Mouse, so I can now share what I sent . . .

Some pins, some needles, some ribbon, some fabric, some tea and a Margaret Sherry Mouse ornament, stitched on 32ct Vintage Beige Linen with recommended DMC threads.
Now I can't wait to sort out and send the next one! Fiona is my next victim  participant :)

I have been meaning for days to post the recipe, but I worry that it's going to seem so very basic. I really experiment with my cooking and just add whatever suits. But I have the recipe here for four people, but you can just do what I did and half it for just two of you. I cooked mine in a slow cooker, but I'm sure you could use a casserole dish in a low-heat oven, around 160C

Pork and Cider Casserole

One small onion, chopped.
One cooking apple, cut into cubes.
4 steaks of loin pork.
1 tbsp of plain flour.
400ml of medium dry cider (I used Thatchers)
Half a teaspoon of dried thyme.
1tsp of dried sage.
Salt and Pepper

1) Cut the pork into bite sized pieces.
2) Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the pork until it is browned on all sides. Transfer to your casserole dish/slow cooker bowl.
3) Add the onions and the apple to the pan and fry for around three minutes. Stir in the flour and then gradually add the cider.
4) Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, and then take off the heat and add the herbs and seasoning.
5) Transfer this mixture to the dish/bowl with the pork and mix together well. Place in a low-heat oven for 6 - 7 hours, or a low setting on the slow cooker for the same amount of time.

So there you have it, my first ever recipe! It's best served with boiled potatoes or crusty bread because there is a lot of lovely gravy. I'd love to hear if any of you out there try this recipe, maybe you could send me a photo?
I've got time now to settle to my stitching before heading out to Creative Non-Fiction. It was snowing this morning in Winchester, just little flakes mind. I'm going to need my woollen hat when I venture out later on!
Best wishes,

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Pinching Pennies

Phew! What a busy week I'm having! It seems all the homework tasks, extra reading and essay exams have all come along at once. I'm still finding time to stitch for an hour or two in the evenings, but I haven't got much progress to show this time.
What I have come to show you is a couple of bargains I found last week. I went into my favourite shop in Winchester only a couple of days after I returned to Uni. It's a three storey building that houses all manner of wonderful things from fabric to curtains to mirrors to candles and it even has a cafe. I wandered in and was delighted to find they still had their sale on.
Look at this beauty of a cushion! For only £4 ($2.57), I couldn't resist. My love of tea and teapots is growing by the day :)

Next I wandered up to the haberdashery and fabric floor and continued my luck with the bargains. I got two 1 metre lengths of fabric for only £7! ($4.50) I hardly ever buy full metres, normally I get halfs because they're more affordable. These are two prints that I think can be used in lots of designs, I had to have them. Plus I picked up a sheet of letter stickers for scrapbooking for only £1 - a definite bargain.

My housemates have pointed out that I'm quite good at sniffing out a bargain. But when you're learning to manage on a small income, I think it's worth checking for cheaper prices so you can treat yourself to more important things. Like dinner out at Prezzos coming up this weekend :)
I hope you're all having a wonderful week. I'm mailing out the first Birthday Stitch Surprise (BSS) parcel soon - can't wait!

PS The pork and cider casserole was a big success, Lawrie asked when was I making it again! The only thing is I forgot to take a picture - would people still be interested in seeing the recipe in a post anyway? Thanks!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Gingerbread and Cookies

Don't you just love it when you finally get to sit down after a hard day's work? I was up nice and early this morning, ready to be productive, and it sure has paid off. My notes are all up to date and I'm ahead with the reading - bonus! It's always nice after you've been working hard to sit down with a cup of tea and go "Aaah."
I thought I'd show a picture of where I'm up to on Country Cottage Needlework's Gingerbread Cottage . . .

This was the project I was stitching on over the holidays, not that I got much time to stitch. It is lovely to settle to my stitching every night after dinner. I'm the type of person who likes to get all the work done in the mornings so I can be very lazy in the evenings. What time do you work best?
I've also been stitching on another little project, but I can't show that just yet. I bet you know who it's for though :)

In other news, I've been baking! In my last post I told you all how I wanted to improve my baking skills and what better way to do this than with practise. I whipped these Smartie cookies up one afternoon and they were gone by the evening! Good job I've still got half a tube of Smarties to make some more.

Next, I think I'm going to do some good ol' fashioned vanilla cupcakes, but big ones with lots of icing and sweeties on top. Yum yum!
I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow as Lawrie is coming to visit and we're going to a second hand book fair in town. And I'm cooking a pork and cider casserole, I do like my cooking :) Do you have any lovely weekend plans? Whatever you're doing, I hope it's lots of fun.
Best wishes,

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

January Goals 2012

I know I'm terribly late with this post, but hey, it's still January so why not?
Looking back at last year's New Year's resolutions, I managed to get a fair few done. My personal ones last year were:
1) Work hard for good grades for Uni - Success! I am a student at the University of Winchester and loving it.
2) Have more picnics - This one came true too, including a particularly delightful one with Lawrence when we were in the Lake District.
3) Take more film when on outings - this one could definitely be improved. I want to preserve memories as much as I can.

As for my stitching related ones, not too shabby on this front either:
1) Complete an LHN design - Complete! I finished Nature's Beauty and I've got more LHN now in my stash thanks to recent purchases.
2) Host a giveaway - Complete! I held my first blogaversary giveaway in April and I'm soon to hold another.

3) Take part in a small exchange - Complete! Although it unfortunately didn't last for all the rounds, I did take part in the Rotating Designer exchange and I hope Lesleyanne liked my piece! I adored what she stitched for me :)
4) Work on my fairies design - Oh dear, it's still tucked away . . .
5) Stitch something for a RAK - Not achieved last year, but I'm making it up for it this year with the Birthday Stitch Surprise.

6) Complete the ornament a month challenge - what with schoolwork and other commitments, it just isn't possible for me to definitely complete this. I'm sure I'll fit in a few though.

As for this year, I've seen so many posts about New Year challenges and I love reading them all. The big challenges are just not for me though, I haven't yet acquired as much wonderful stash as lots of you lucky ladies! I do have a few goals for this year though, a mix of personal and stitching.

1. I want to complete the Birthday Stitch Surprise - a parcel of goodies to one person each month. This one should be no problem to complete, it really is lovely choosing things others might like.

2. I want to become more confident on my sewing machine and improve my finishing techniques. I am still relatively new to finishing, but I'm getting better with each piece. I just need the practice.

3. To continue to work hard at Uni. I know how lucky I am to be here, and I thoroughly enjoy my course.

4. To become better at baking. I absolutely adore baking, it's my favourite hobby, second only to cross stitching. And it is a perk of living in a student house, you can bake lots and not have to worry about your weight - baked good disappear fast enough! I'm thinking I will post a few pics and recipes from time to time, I've got one lined up already.

5. To collect more egg cups. I've only just started this collection, but it's becoming a bit addicting. I love how they look lined up on my shelf.

So there you have it, my plan for the year. I hope you all enjoy seeing my progress on each of these tasks. I love reading about your goals :)
Best wishes,

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Big Stash Haul

Oh goodness, how time flies. It's been a very busy time since I last posted and I thought I'd catch you up on everything.
First of, I have reached 100 followers!! Thank you so much to each and every one of you for reading about this student and her craft. This blog means a lot to me and I can't believe it's attracted so many readers. I am so very grateful. I will be holding a tiny giveaway very soon, so look out for it!
Since I last posted, I finished working at Sainsbury's, celebrated my mum's birthday and returned to Uni. Yes I'm back at Winchester and very pleased to be here. I really appreciate the freedom of getting to do what I want when I want, although it was lovely being at home. I've got stuck in with my studies already, getting six books out of the library this morning for future projects. I love it!
The title tells of stash, and what a stash it is :) The day before coming back to Uni, my big order arrived. This was my Christmas treat to myself, and I beamed at everything I received. I can't wait to get started on it all. 

I treated myself to six new charts; Touch of the Wilderness, by Brittercup Designs/Tea Crazy, by Lizzie Kate/The Tea Room, by Country Cottage Needleworks/Schoolgirl Lesson, by Little House Needleworks/Always and Forever, by Little House Needleworks/Autumn Sampler, by Lizzie Kate.
That should certainly keep me busy for awhile!

I also got some bits for scrapbooking too. I did a fair bit of scrapping over the holidays, but forgot to take any photos. Silly me. I love stickers, and couldn't resist these ones as they were all reduced.

I also got two large cuts of fabric (32ct Belfast in Fairy Dust and Light Mocha) and a whole bunch of DMC threads for future starts. I also bought a Sampler Thread in Dark Chocolate, which is also for a future project - stay tuned!

I'm having a ball with the Birthday Stitch Surprise. It's been so lovely putting a parcel together for Mouse, I really hope she likes it. My next recipient is Fiona. If you could send me a quick email of likes and dislikes Fiona, I would really appreciate it! :) I'm glad I chose to do this giveaway, it's really fun.

I'm on top of my reading already, so I am spending the evening with a big mug of hot chocolate and reading all what you've been up to. I can't wait! I'm sorry I've been absent from blogging lately, but I'm sure it's the same for all of you that family come first over the holidays. I'm back now and ready to stitch!
Best wishes,

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Christmas Catch Up and Happy New Year!!

Oh gosh, I've been away from blogging for far too long! It seems I started working full time and everything else went to pot. It was pretty hard working day after day for the first time ever, it's manual work and lots of lifting. It was beginning to take its toll, so I've cut down my hours for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, I can return properly to the land of blogging that I have missed for too long :)
Thank you to the Birthday Stitch Surprise winners for sending me some truly lovely emails. I love that you've all got different likes and dislikes, it will give me lots of different stitching to do. After this post, I'm going to catch up on all the blogs I've missed. I've bet you've all been busy enjoying the festive season.
I had a lovely Christmas and got some truly gorgeous presents. My parents treated me with gifts of sweeties and chocolate and cake tins and recipe books - all my favourite things! One of my best was the latest edition of The World of Cross Stitching, that has some truly lovely patterns in it. Plus, it came with a diary featuring 12 Margaret Sherry charts, bonus or what?

Lawrence spoiled me as well. He gave me a t-shirt featuring one of our favourite singers (Bruce Springsteen!) and then possibly my favourite gift this year. He found me a bounded copy of the Wind in the Willows, with the water colour painting inside. It is so beautiful and no picture I could take would ever do it justice. He was very much in the good books! LOL
His mum got me some lovely gifts too - aren't I a lucky one? She got me the latest Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, featuring lots of yummy cupcake designs which I can't wait to try out. I also got this gorgeous pin cushion, isn't it the cutest?

And on top of all that, my sister got me a gift card which I can't wait to spend :)
Just before Christmas I got sent some wonderful items from my stitching friends. I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to thank you, where are my manners? Firstly, thank you to Sarah from Kiwi Gets Crafty for sending me a beautiful handmade card and a skein of gorgeous autumnal thread. I'll be sure to send a reply soon Sarah!
Next thank you to Karen for sending me a beautiful Christmas ornament. I was lucky enough to be picked for Karen's "Ornament Exchange" and it arrived in time to be displayed this Christmas. I'm going to be keeping it all year round though, it's too pretty to be boxed away, don't you agree?

Thank you so much ladies! I love being a part of this community.
Our Christmas Day was a lovely family affair. Just my parents and me and my sister, perfect. My mum made a huge meal and we didn't move for awhile afterwards. Then Boxing Day, my extended family came for a visit and my nan came to stay. This time of year is certainly very busy :)
I spent New Year's Eve with Lawrence and a few of his friends. We had Indian takeaway and lots of wine and toasted the New Year. It was really fun and a memory I will treasure for a long time.

I'll be back very soon with a list of my New Year's resolutions and possibly a stitchy update. I had a day off today and I've got another one tomorrow, which I'm spending at the January Sales with my best friend. My life might be a bit hectic at the moment, but I wouldn't swap it for the world. I'm a very lucky girl :)
Best wishes and Happy New Year to everyone!